2016-01-21 : India's box office growth runs into a screen problem

Single-screen theatres are closing down at a higher rate than at which multiplexes are adding screens

Could this year end up being the worst for box office growth in India?

In April 2013, PVR's five-screen multiplex at Grand Mall in Chennai's Velachery was ready for business. It was, however, only in December 2015, under a court directive, that the licence to open was issued. The interest costs, that of keeping the property fully-staffed in anticipation of the licence and the opportunity cost is not something anyone at the Rs 1,485-crore PVR cares to discuss. "Capital is not a constraint (for growth), the ecosystem is," is all Kamal Gianchandani, CEO, PVR Pictures, says.

There are dozens of theatres like PVR, ready in various parts of the country, awaiting a licence to start. Getting permission to open a multiplex remains "the single biggest challenge to expansion," says Rahul Puri, managing director, Mukta Arts, which owns 38 screens across the country.